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Rural News

Timber risks outweigh opportunities, experts say

Capital Press | Posted on February 4, 2019

Log and lumber prices aren’t expected to be as volatile in 2019 as last year, but experts still aren’t bullish about the timber industry’s economic outlook. After hitting a record high of $564 last June, the price per thousand board feet of framing lumber dropped 40 percent by the end of the year, to $335, according to the Random Lengths market information service. The shift was brought on by tepid growth in housing starts, a strong supply of lumber and concerns about interest rates, among other factors that are likely to persist in 2019

Washington cougar bill allows training by vetted houndsmen

Capital Press | Posted on February 4, 2019

The Humane Society of the United States has endorsed letting vetted hound handlers pursue cougars to stay sharp for when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife needs dogs to track a big cat menacing people or livestock. Senate Bill 5320 would heighten scrutiny of the handlers used by the state. In exchange, handlers who pass muster could take their dogs out and trail cougars under a training program overseen by Fish and Wildlife.

Missouri reports 9,300 feral hogs killed in 2018

AP News | Posted on February 4, 2019

The Missouri Department of Conservation says more than 9,000 feral hogs were killed in the state last year. The department on Friday reported that along with partner agencies and private landowners, it killed roughly 9,300 hogs in 2018.

In Kansas and Missouri, why are rural lawmakers interfering in cities’ affairs?

Kansas City Star | Posted on February 4, 2019

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly made rural redevelopment a central part of her first speech to lawmakers.“The majority of our 105 counties lost population last year, and for many years prior to that,” she said. “Whether it’s roads, broadband, housing, or agriculture, they need our support.”Maybe they’ll get it. The Kansas House has a new committee aimed at revitalizing rural areas. Across the state line in Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson wants $5 million to expand broadband internet. “We currently have about 10 school districts and many rural communities that lack access to high speed broadband,” he told the legislature. “That is unacceptable.”Such appeals to rural development in Kansas and Missouri are pretty common. Perhaps, though, it’s a good time to ask a fundamental question: Why?Why should urban and suburban areas care about, or help pay for, rural development of broadband, schools, housing or anything else?But the problem now is obvious: Those closest to rural culture are leaving for the cities, in droves. One-fourth of Kansas counties have fewer than 3,000 residents. Some rural Kansas counties may be all but abandoned by 2064, according to one study. At that point, 80 percent of all Kansans will live in urban or suburban communities. Most people living in cities and the suburbs are quite happy to help out their rural neighbors, by supporting school districts with 170 students, or backing taxes for rural roads and bridges, or better internet service.What they do object to, increasingly, is the interference of rural lawmakers in local urban affairs, from guns and taxes to trash bags and labor laws. Because rural interests are over-represented in our politics, that interference often becomes law, and it rankles.

Nebraska housing program helps rural workers

Sioux City Journal | Posted on January 29, 2019

A couple in northeast Nebraska is the first to find housing through the state's rural housing program, which aims to help rural communities increase housing opportunities to better retain workers.The state's $7 million Rural Workforce Housing Fund gives nonprofit development organizations matching grants to construct or rehabilitate housing in rural parts of the state. The goal is to create housing options for middle-income workers who don't qualify for other housing assistance programs but don't have enough for a down payment.

Washington:New bill would create rural development investment funds

Columbia Basin Herald | Posted on January 29, 2019

Proposed Senate legislation would create rural development and opportunity zone funds and extend tax reductions to certain timber activities. Private investment companies could apply to join these funds that would provide capital for businesses in qualifying areas. The prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5423, District 1 Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, reworked the measure from what he proposed last year, noting it won’t cost the state any money. SB 5423 would create a tax incentive for Rural and Small Business Investment Companies (RBICs) and Small Business Investment Companies (SMBICs). In this case, the incentive is for investment in specific opportunity zones in Washington.“This is the way that tax preferences should be written,” said Palumbo. “This one has such strong sideboards and accountability that it theoretically shouldn’t cost the state anything.”

Union firefighters oppose rangeland protection associations in Washington

Capital Press | Posted on January 29, 2019

The prospect of ranchers, farmers and other rural landowners organizing into firefighting associations continues to get a cold response from unionized firefighters. State lawmakers should exhaust other ways to extend fire protection to remote areas before authorizing rangeland fire protection associations, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters lobbyist Bud Sizemore said."Right now, our feeling is it could be somewhat of a drain on existing resources rather than a big help," he said. The council represents 130 local firefighter unions. The state could look at enlarging existing fire agencies, he said. "Those structures are already there."Oregon and Idaho have long had rangeland associations. The volunteer organizations — 24 in Oregon and nine in Idaho — are intended to mobilize landowners to put out wildland fires in places far removed from the nearest fire station.Washington has some 363,000 acres that aren't within any fire agency's boundaries, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Fire agencies may still respond to keep fires from spreading to protected land. 

The Year Ahead: Forces that will Shape the U.S. Rural Economy in 2019

CoBank | Posted on January 29, 2019

After hitting an 8-year high in 2018, global economic growth will slow this year. Trade tensions, particularly between the U.S. and China, remain the leading global risk. In the U.S., we project that consumer strength will offset a slowing housing market and weaker business investment to keep the economy growing at a rate of 1.75-2.25 percent in 2019. The Federal Reserve is no longer locked into a tightening cycle aimed at returning to “neutral” conditions. Instead, we expect the Fed to stand pat on rates as it attempts to take its foot off the gas and coast safely through 2019. With a split Congress, it will be difficult to find enough consensus to move legislation in the next two years. However, bipartisan support will likely be strong enough to pass USMCA, and may be strong enough to back an infrastructure bill. Costs will continue to rise for agricultural producers in 2019, adding to their existing financial stress. Resilient land values have supported the roughly 60 percent of farmers that own their land, but persistently weak commodity prices will increase the downward pressure on farmland prices this year. Three significant trade-related issues must be solved this year to restore some normalcy to agricultural markets: legislative approval of USMCA, removal of steel and aluminum retaliatory tariffs, and marked improvement in trade relations with China. CoBank expects some progress to be made between the U.S. and China by the March deadline, but a substantive deal that is acceptable to both sides will likely require more time. The grain, farm supply and biofuel sectors will experience increased competition in 2019 as ongoing trade disputes increase foreign opportunities. Domestic competition will also increase in the farm supply sector as agriculture retailers face the likelihood of price hikes from a more concentrated supplier base. Despite abundant supply and weak margins in the animal protein and dairy sectors, both will continue to expand production in 2019. The dairy, pork and poultry sectors will contend with increased processing capacity and the result of lower processing margins.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's first executive order calls for accelerated rural development

The Tennessean | Posted on January 29, 2019

Gov. Bill Lee's first executive order calls for accelerated development in Tennessee's distressed rural counties, a priority he emphasized throughout his campaign for governor. The executive order, issued Wednesday, requires all state executive departments to provide recommendations for how they can better serve rural Tennessee through a "statement of rural impact." His office says the order is a first step by his administration to move forward with plans to spur improvements in 15 rural distressed counties in Tennessee, meaning they are among the 10 percent most economically challenged counties in the nation by the Appalachian Regional Commission, which prepares an annual index.The 22 departments involved in the review have until May 31 to issue their rural impact statements to explain how they serve rural Tennessee. By June 30, each department must release its recommendations for improving service to rural areas.

How Is Rural America Saving Itself?

Wisconsin Public Radio | Posted on January 24, 2019

Recent news analysis has asked - and tried to answer the question - of whether we can we save rural America. But our guest says that's the wrong question. He joins us to explore how rural America is saving itself and why rethinking what economic success looks like is key for the future of rural success.